MELBOURNE, Australia –
Australia ended Canada’s FIFA Women’s World Cup campaign with a lopsided 4-0 win Monday, putting the Olympic champion Canadians to the sword.
It was not pretty, unless you were Australian. The 10th-ranked Matildas needed to win to be sure of moving on to the tournament’s knockout round and they wasted little time getting the job done.
It was one-way traffic from the get-go. And rubbing salt in the wound, Steph Catley scored on a stoppage-time penalty after video review confirmed a foul against Canada’s Jessie Fleming on the edge of the box.
A draw or win would have moved the seventh-ranked Canadians into the round of 16. But they soon found themselves with a mountain to climb before a partisan crowd announced at 27,706.
And now they go home after three games, finishing third in a tough Group B with a 1-1-1.
It’s Canada’s worst finish at the Women’s World Cup since it went winless in 2011 and finished last. It’s likely also the Canadian women’s worst game in recent years.
And it’s another body blow for Canada Soccer in a year blighted by a bitter labour dispute.
Hayley Raso scored twice for the tournament co-hosts as Canada’s vaunted defence was carved open in the first half. It could have been 3-0 at the break but a third Australian goal was ruled offside.
Canadians failed to put a shot on target in a first half in which they looked rattled.
It soon got worse as Mary Fowler made it 3-0 in the 58th minute.
Talismanic Canadian captain Christine Sinclair, who came off the bench in last Wednesday’s 2-1 win over Ireland, returned to the starting lineup but only lasted a half. One wonders if it is the last game for the 40-year-old icon, the world’s all-time leading scorer.
The Canadians knew a loss might not end their campaign, providing No. 40 Nigeria was beaten by No. 22 Ireland and the tiebreakers were in their favour.
Nigeria and Ireland played to a 0-0 draw, snuffing out that scenario.
Hayley Raso (16) of Australia celebrates after scoring the first goal past Canada’s keeper Kailen Sheridan during Group B soccer action at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Melbourne, Australia, Monday, July 31, 2023. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Scott Barbour)
Australia (2-1-0) wins the group with Nigeria (1-0-2) also advancing. Ireland (0-2-1) finishes fourth.
Melbourne Rectangular Stadium, better known as AAMI Park, was decked in Australian colours — with its green-coloured seats filled with fans wearing gold. It was hard to see red, although there were pockets of Canadian support.
FFA president Gianni Infantino was also in the house.
The crowd didn’t have long to wait for something to cheer about. A rapid-fire Australian attack produced a ninth-minute Raso goal that was initially ruled offside but was given the green light after video review.
Goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold started the move with a sweeping pass that found Catlin Foord near midfield, She quickly sent the ball forward to Catley, whose ensuing cross handcuffed Vanessa Gilles and the Canadian defence. The ball found its way through several bodies to Raso, who beat goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan with a low shot.
Fullback Jayde Riviere and Kadeisha Buchanan were unable to corral the Australian surge down the flank.
Raso, who is leaving Manchester City for Real Madrid, almost made it 2-0 four minutes later but a diving Sheridan made a superb one-handed save to parry the ball away.
The Matildas appeared to make it 2-0 in the 34th minute with Fowler hammering the ball into the goal after the Canadians failed to clear their lines. Australian players were literally queuing up to take the shot while Buchanan was down injured on the play.
Video review negated the goal, however, with Ellie Carpenter ruled to be offside.
Australia scored again in the 39th minute off a Kyra Cooney-Cross corner as Canada’s defence was again found wanting. Sheridan’s attempted punch went for naught and the ball bounced off Canada’s Quinn, who goes by one name, to Raso who poked it in from point-blank range.
This time it counted. And the Canadians looked shell-shocked, not for the first time at this tournament.
Coach Bev Priestman sent on Allysha Chapman, Sophie Schmidt, Cloe Lacasse and Deanne Rose to open the second half, taking off Riviere, Julia Grosso, Sinclair and Jordyn Huitema.
But it was more of the same, with Australia soon adding a third goal.
A long ball found Foord racing down the left flank and Fowler, despite the presence of six Canadian defenders in the penalty box, flicked her cross off the post into the goal.
Canada’s Adriana Leon came off in the second half for a concussion check.
Rose tested Arnold in the 66th minute — Canada’s first shot on target — but the Australian ‘keeper was up to the task. In the 76, Schmidt fired a shot high.
Olivia Smith, just 19, came on in the 77th minute for her third cap. Two minutes later, Australia came close again as Fowler’s shot hit the post.
The Matildas were looking to avoid following New Zealand, which on Sunday became the first-ever Women’s World Cup host team not to survive the first round.
Australia coach Tony Gustavsson called the game a “crossroads moment.”
Much of the pre-game talk focused on the health of Australian star forward Sam Kerr, who missed the first two matches with a calf injury. Kerr, Australia’s all-time leading scorer with 63 goals in 120 appearances prior to Monday, started on the bench but wasn’t needed.
The Canadian question-marks were Sinclair and Buchanan.
Sinclair limped off the field in last Wednesday’s 2-1 win over Ireland after an impactful 45 minutes as a substitute. Buchanan, dealing with illness, exited late in the first half of the Irish game.
Both were in the Canadian starting 11 Monday with Evelyne Viens shifting to the bench to make room for Sinclair, who was making her 326th appearance. The Canadian starters went into the game with a combined cap count of 1,103.
It was 12 degrees Celsius, feeling like nine degrees with the breeze. The Canadian wore red jerseys with black shorts while the Matildas were in teal.
The crowd roared with every Australian attack.
Both teams had bumpy rides in their first two group matches.
Canada, looking slightly out of sync, was held to a scoreless draw by Nigeria at the same Melbourne venue with Sinclair seeing her second-half penalty saved. The Canadians then needed a second-half rally to dispatch Ireland in the rain in Perth.
Australia had to hang on for a 1-0 win over Ireland, thanks to a second-half spot kick by Catley, before being upset 3-2 by Nigeria in a game that was not as close as the scoreline suggests.
That set the scene for a wild final round of group games with only Ireland eliminated from advancing to the knockout stage of the tournament.
Australia faces the Group D runner-up while Nigeria takes on the Group D winner in the round of 16, with both games set for Aug. 7.
No. 4 England (2-0-0) currently tops Group D with No. 13 Denmark (1-1-0) second, ahead of No. 14 China (1-1-0) on a tiebreaker. The final positions in Group D will be decided Tuesday when England takes on China in Adelaide and winless Haiti faces Denmark in Perth.
Canada came into the game 8-7-3 all-time against Australia and had won the last three meetings, including last year’s 1-0 and 2-1 victories in Brisbane and Sydney, respectively. Leon scored all three goals in the two most recent victories, which upped Canada’s record against the Matildas to 6-2-2 this century.
Canada’s best finish at the tournament was fourth in 2003. Four years ago in France, the Canada exited in a 1-0 loss to Sweden in the round of 16.
Australia made the quarterfinals in 2007, 2011 and 2015
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 31, 2023.
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